Human Rights Lawyer Wang Yonghang: From Bystander to Victim to Witness in the Persecution of Falun Gong (Part I)
(Minghui.org) Mr. Wang Yonghang, a human rights attorney, has defended Falun Gong practitioners since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) began to persecute the group in 1999. Like Gao Zhisheng and many other lawyers who supported Falun Gong practitioners, Mr. Wang was severely punished by the regime, including a seven-year period of unlawful detention and brutal torture.
Mr. Wang understood that the public would never know what he and many other Falun Gong practitioners experienced if they didn't tell their stories. The following is his firsthand account of how the communist regime has violated the law in its persecution of Falun Gong practitioners.
I am Wang Yonghang from Ju'nan County, Shandong Province. I studied mechanical engineering at Dalian Railway Institute (now Dalian Jiaotong University) from 1993 to 1997. I then worked at the Dalian Locomotive Factory. I passed the National Bar Exam in 1999 and became a legal counselor for the factory. I left the factory to practice law in 2003.
Though I was a relatively unknown attorney who was struggling to make ends meet, I tried my best to take on pro bono work for people suffering injustices. I charged no fees on my ten wrongful death compensation cases except for two, and those I only charged a nominal fee for because they took extremely long to close.
To attract more clients, I set up a free legal consultation booth at the Dalian City Book Store on a weekend in 2005. I was recognized as one of the 18 Best Legal Service Providers of Dalian in 2006.
Denied Chance to Represent Falun Gong Practitioner
Mr. Wang Chunyan, a Falun Gong practitioner in Dalian, was tried in the spring of 2008. As his attorney, I entered the courtroom with all my legal documents. At the time, it was rare to see an attorney defending a Falun Gong practitioner. The judge drove me out of the courtroom. She said that she would tell the Justice Bureau, which oversees attorneys, to investigate my involvement in this case. A few days later, I heard that the Justice Bureau had actually started an investigation.
It was just that ridiculous! The judge ended up taking away my right to represent a client and, more importantly, my client's right to an attorney.
I had a hard time accepting such an egregious abuse of the legal system. But as I soon learned, whenever an issue is related to Falun Gong, nothing is out of bounds for the government.
Wife Arrested for Putting Up Stickers
My wife, who was studying at Fudan University in Shanghai at the time, was taken away by the police on the morning of April 30, 2008. It was because she put up a few stickers with the words “Falun Dafa is good.” The police detained her for “using evil religious organizations to undermine law enforcement.”
I went to the Changsha Road Police Station in Shanghai, where she was taken on May 2. I explained to the police there that it was illegal to arrest my wife since her actions did not constitute a crime.
“You should trust in us,” said a plainclothes officer brusquely. “China is, after all, a country ruled by law.”
“China is not a country ruled by law. A country ruled by law would, at the very least, not have forced labor camps,” I replied.
He jumped up and started swearing at me.
I wanted to hire a local attorney to visit my wife in the detention center. I went to several law firms, but they were all concerned about representing Falun Gong practitioners. I had no choice but to ask my relatives to send my attorney paperwork to Shanghai so that I could visit her as an attorney.
I met with my wife as her attorney on May 5. Then I wrote an open letter to China's head of state to ask them to follow the law, give my wife her freedom, and stop persecuting Falun Gong. The letter was published in the Epoch Times, an overseas Chinese media outlet. It later became evidence that was used against me by the government.
My wife was released on May 14, but soon after, I became a target for retaliation.
Targeted for Publishing Letter in Overseas Media
The month my wife was released, the Liaoning Provincial Justice Bureau took away my attorney's license. I heard that the head of the Justice Bureau, Zhang Jiacheng, even came to Dalian from Liaoning's capital city of Shenyang to lead a working group to discuss how to “save” me and remove the “negative impact” of my writing to the Liaoning Justice Bureau.
Several officials from the attorney association came to see me.
“Attorney Wang, we have read your article. What you said is right. The government cannot refute the issues that you raised. However, don't let Falun Gong use you. We are not afraid of the old men and old women of Falun Gong, but we care about people like you who know the law,” one of them said.
I told him that I could judge for myself and wouldn't be used.
He then gave me his demands. First, I would have to issue an apology and make a statement that I would not post articles on overseas websites targeting national leaders. Second, I would have to promise not to publish articles on the Epoch Times anymore. In return, my attorney's license would be returned and the attorney association would look favorably upon me in the future.
I told them that I wrote the letter because I had no other option and I would not admit fault against my own conscience. That ended the first meeting.
The second meeting happened at the Dalian Justice Bureau. The deputy director criticized me for publishing articles on overseas media that targeted the top leader of China and mentioned Falun Gong.
“There is no persecution in prison as Falun Gong practitioners have claimed. If you don't believe it, I can arrange for you to visit the Dalian Municipal Prison.”
I explained to him that I had no recourse but to do what I did. Then I questioned his statements.
“First, my wife was detained for posting a few stickers. The police would not listen to my legal argument and ended the discussion by claiming 'it was decided by higher officials and we don't have a say.' Second, I wrote about a legal issue. As a Justice Bureau official, you should focus on whether the issue I raised is worth paying attention to, not on where I published the article or whom I wrote the article to. Third, you know a lot of legal experts. Why don't you invite ten experts in criminal law to give their opinions on my article? If even one says that I was off base legally, I will do all that you are asking.”
The deputy director ended our conversation with a threat: “So what if it is Gao Zhisheng? So what if it is Li Dejun? Aren't they better [attorneys] than you? But we arrested them anyway!”
Zhou Yongkang was in charge of the Party's “maintain stability” program. He escalated the arrests of Falun Gong practitioners in July 2008 prior to the Olympic Games.
I wrote and emailed an open letter to the Supreme Court and Supreme Procuratorate to point out the absurdity of using Article 300 of the Criminal Law to criminalize Falun Gong practitioners. They never responded.
Two Falun Gong Practitioners Sentenced to Prison Despite My Efforts to Defend Their Innocence
The city of Dalian tried Falun Gong practitioners Ms. Gu Li and Ms. Qiu Shuping in August 2008. I came to the court as a non-attorney representative since I didn't have my attorney's license anymore. Practitioner Mr. Yan Shoulin from Dalian joined me in defending them.
The prosecutor and the judge could not refute our arguments that practicing Falun Gong did not constitute a crime. Some of my clients' relatives changed their negative attitude about us, and the husband of one of the practitioners even apologized to us for having believed the government's propaganda.
However, the practitioner that I defended was sentenced to four years in prison, one year longer than the practitioner whom I didn't defend. The court refused to give me the verdict, even when I went to the judge to ask for it.
Arrested for Representing Another Practitioner
An attorney from Beijing and I defended practitioner Mr. Cong Rixu in June 2009.
A few friends and I were having lunch at a friend's home on July 4, 2009, when a group of people rushed in and said, “Don't move. We are from the Dalian Police Department.” Then they started looking around.
I asked the others to continue our lunch and ignore them. A policeman then pointed at me and said, “Take him!”
Two people stood behind me and ordered me to stand up, but I didn't move. They dragged me by the arms into a different room, where a group of police officers was waiting. They started kicking and stomping on me.
One police officer called my name and started taunting me. I realized that they were after me specifically.
“Since you came for me, let them go,” I asked.
The answer I got was more mocking and more kicking.
The police arrested 13 people that day, including Mr. Feng Gang, an art professor at the Dalian Fisheries College. Mr. Feng died under suspicious circumstances on August 14, 2009. His family had his body frozen so they could demand an investigation into his death.
Injuries Following Arrest
The officers took me to a local police station and detained me on the second floor. Xiao Jian, an officer in street clothes, kept calling people and answering phone calls excitedly.
After it got quiet, I asked him, “You should display your ID when you're on duty. What is your name and department?”
“I won't tell you,” he replied contemptuously.
“You need a reason to make an arrest. Can you tell me why you arrested me?”
“I won't tell you that, either.”
“Then I don't have to comply with you either.” I got up and ran to the stairs.
When I was halfway down the stairs, I saw that the gate on the first floor was locked.
Xiao Jian chased after me and shouted for help. Three more officers came. They dragged me up to the second floor and started beating me.
When they got tired, they dragged me to the conference room. I walked a few steps and then, all of sudden, I felt my right ankle go numb.
They threw me to the ground. Xiao kicked me in the head a few times while cursing at me.
My right ankle swelled up and turned purple and the pain was excruciating. They dragged me to the first floor at dusk and locked me in a metal cage. They saw that my ankle was injured.
They then took me to the Dalian Central Hospital for an X-ray. The doctor asked me what had happened.
“I can't tell you what exactly happened,” I replied. “I ran a few steps, and then I was beaten.”
“The first account is very important. You must clearly explain [your cause of injury].”
It could have been that I injured my ankle while trying to run away or that the police injured it while they were beating me.
I thought that the first was more likely, so I asked the doctor to record that as the reason.
The police then tried to admit me to a detention center that night, but the detention center refused to accept me after they saw my ankle. They took me to the Central Hospital the next day to put a cast on my foot. The detention center still refused to accept me that afternoon. One of the police officers called one of his superiors to force the detention center to take me.
The detention center guards asked several inmates to watch me and not let me touch the bandage or the cast. I developed a severe pain in my right ankle a month later. When Xiao Jian came to interrogate me, I took off the bandage. The ankle had festered to the point that we could see the bone.
From that point on, the detention center arranged for local police station officers to take me to the hospital to get medicine on my ankle every few days.
Forced to Have Surgery
In the middle of August, a detention center official told the Central Hospital to take an X-ray of my ankle. The results were bad. The officer was angry that the police station was negligent in treating my ankle. He called his manager and reported the severity of my injury.
The police station then agreed that I would have surgery to deal with the issue.
I requested that they set me free, instead, and I did not consent to the surgery.
One day, the Director of Orthopedics of the Central Hospital came to talk to me: “As for your surgery, you should cooperate with us if you want to; and you will cooperate even if you don't want to. This is the Communist Party's hospital. We only listen to the Communist Party. If you don't cooperate, we will anesthetize you completely to do the surgery.”
At 8:30 a.m. on August 25, 2009, I was put on the operating table. After waiting for an hour, the Director of Orthopedics came in and said angrily, “The police asked us to do the surgery this morning but won't give us the check till noon. Our hospital has a rule that, if we don't get paid first, we can't get all the equipment we need. We will just have to go with what we have.”
During the surgery, I heard the director tell his nurse that they didn't have the right type of pin and had to use a different type.
At first they anesthetized me from the waist down. After inserting the pin, they took an X-ray to check the result. I heard them say, “The bones are set incorrectly.” Then they gave me more anesthesia and I lost consciousness.
At my family's insistence, the Shenyang Number One Prison took me to have my foot looked at in June of 2010. After studying the X-ray, a professor at the Second Affiliated Hospital of China Medical University asked me where I'd had the surgery done. He then said, “Your Dalian doctors are far too proficient.” I heard the sarcasm in his voice and asked him what he meant by that. He looked at the policeman next to him and didn't say a thing.
Mr. Wang Yonghang, a Falun Gong practitioner, was an attorney at the Qianjun Law Office in Liaoning Province. He has counseled, represented, and defended several Falun Gong practitioners since 2007.
He published seven articles on the Epoch Times website (in Chinese), including an open letter addressed to the highest judicial office in China. In his open letter, entitled “Mistakes Made in the Past Demand That Corrections Be Made Quickly Today,” Mr. Wang pointed out that the CCP authorities control both the legislative and judicial systems without checks and balances and use them to persecute Falun Gong practitioners under the guise of legality.
As a result of his letters, and under great pressure from the authorities, the law firm where he worked terminated his employment. His attorney certification was confiscated and withheld by the authorities.
He was arrested in July 2009 and sentenced to seven years in prison. His case was included in the United Nations 2010 Special Rapporteur report on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
(To be continued)